Living Language Basic Complete Review

The Living Language Basic Complete package (available for French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese) has two significant selling points - it is comprehensive and affordable. For $25 or less, the Basic Complete package has a small but well-packed coursebook, 3 audio cd's and a dictionary. The material covered in the coursebook parallels that of similar basic programs such as Teach Yourself or Pimsleur. For all practical purposes, any basic to intermediate level language learning product will cover the same material.

The coursebook is a lightweight paperback book with 300+ pages. It eases the learner into the language with several lessons on pronunciation, the alphabet, the vocabulary that is most useful (like numbers) or that is easy to remember or associate with (like days of the week, months of the year etc), and some vocabulary every English speaker will recognize. There seems to be a focus on cognates (words which are nearly identical between two languages) in order to help the learner quickly pick up some vocabulary and maybe reduce the intimidation factor when learning a new language. It doesn't go nearly as far as a Michel Thomas course, but cognates are easy vocabulary, so this is appreciated.

The course then gets into common sayings, dialogues, greetings and useful phrases before slowly tackling the grammar. Verb conjugations, verb tenses, word order and other rules of grammar and syntax are all demonstrated in small batches throughout the course. Never in great depth (hence the word Basic in the title) but everything that is essential in everyday speech (hence the word Complete).

Each of the 40 lessons has a small number of exercises - multiple choice, list matching etc. that put to use the vocabulary, phrases and grammar covered in the lesson and up until that point. I would prefer more exercises (the more the merrier, I say) perhaps even in a separate workbook. On the other hand, there are more excersises than some other learning methods like Teach Yourself, so that is a lot to ask for in this already high-value low-cost package.

By the way, this coursebook can be purchased all by itself, as well. For under $10 it might make a good text-based course to work through along with another language learning method or an all-audio program like Pimsleur.

One of the other parts of the package is the audio portion contained on 3 cd's that are coordinated with the coursebook. Vocabulary and phrases that are in bold text in the coursebook are also pronounced on the cd's. The early lessons are heavy in audio as the student needs to hear the sounds of the language to begin to develop their pronunciation skills.

The audio has some dialogues and conversations. It is comparable to Teach Yourself, but of course could never compete with an all-audio course like Pimsleur in this arena. That's the one drawback to a 'little bit of everything' course like this one. It doesn't go too deep into any one area of learning. Not too much grammar, not much real pronunciation and conversation work etc.

The third part of this package is the dictionary. Many people have trouble deciding what to do next after finishing a course. Generally, the next step is building vocabulary. This is the point where a dictionary is invaluable. The learner can begin to use vocabulary most relevant to their own needs, and apply them with the basic knowledge gained from the course.

By no means is this course the way to fluency, I'm afraid that will only come from the learner and the hard work they must put in to achieve some real results. This course will give someone a good foundation with the right tools to build upon, if worked through to the end diligently. Living Language also offers courses for Intermediate and Advanced students if you decide to continue to study the language in-depth. There are also many other products specific to certain professions that could benefit some learners.

I like to recommend a course like this as a backbone that covers lots of foundation, but then also another course or two to work on specific tasks like Pimsleur for conversation work, or a textbook heavy on grammar, reading and writing etc. This course can provide a fairly comprehensive foundation to build upon, and for the price, you just can't beat it.

The combination of a basic but able coursebook designed for the beginner, 3 cd's for the all-important audio, and the dictionary for continued self-study make Living Language Basic Complete a very well-rounded course for the beginner. The low price is simply unequalled. This package has better value than a comparably priced Teach Yourself course, and is more complete than Pimsleur Quick and Simple or Instant Conversation. In my opinion it is the best value course for a beginner in it's price range.

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